Finance 101: Salary Negotiation and the Profitable Blog

by Erin Dresch

I have a question about how to negotiate a salary. I am a physician at a great hospital. I love the people with whom I work, and I find my specific job fulfilling — I could make a lot more money doing something else, but this is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. I have a rather unique niche and I think I would be difficult (but obviously not impossible) to replace. I’ve worked at this hospital during my residency since I graduated from medical school. My superiors seem to think I do a good job and want me to work here for the long term. Most of the other physicians are paid based upon a percentage of the revenue they generate, but the nature of my particular job doesn’t work with that sort of formula, which we all realize.

So here’s my question: I have been asked to come up a number for my salary. I have no idea how to do this. I have average numbers (nationally) for what people in my field/level of experience earn. But how do I take this information and use it considering all of the intangibles: cost of living in my area, hours worked, specific factors unique to this hospital, etc.? And I don’t really understand how negotiation works — I have no desire to be adversarial; I want a solution that works for everyone, but I also want to earn the salary that’s appropriate for the hard work I put in. Any suggestions?

It seems like there’s a lot for you to work with to negotiate the salary that will please you and the hospital. I’m sure it’s daunting for you to name a number, but in all likelihood both you and your bosses will be on the same page.

Obviously, I can’t just pick a salary out of thin air for you. Stuff you brought up, like your cost of living and the hours you work, need to be considered, and you’re going in the right direction researching average salaries for doctors in your field. Sometimes checking a census to see what the average salary is in that region of the country helps, too, but I think that would be off-base given you work in the medical sector. Kiplinger has a cool calculator that may be helpful.

It would be great if you have a way to discreetly find out the income range of some of your peers in the hospital. This is sometimes too difficult, but could help a lot. Obviously, try to be tactful and find an appropriate moment to bring this up. Sometimes asking for a specific number doesn’t work. You can try, “Hey Doctor So-and-so, do you make over XXX a year?” That way you at least get an idea of range.

Now we’re off to the negotiation! It seems like you have a pretty long and positive history with the hospital. That’s great! Bring that up. A company, no matter what the field, loves loyal employees. It costs a lot of money to pay for job searches and training when there’s frequent employee turnover.

Write out a list of specific accomplishments you’ve achieved during your time there. Give examples of how you went above and beyond your responsibilities — bosses need to hear examples of this kind of stuff before they give you more money.

Finally, if there’s a big difference between what they want to pay you and what you want to get paid, bring up other benefits. Ask for more vacation days, or maybe some kind of tuition payment if you want to get more training. Good luck!

My boyfriend and I want to move in together. Our goal is to do this by March, but even though I’m excited to move in with him, I’m scared because of money. Currently, I’m working as a busser and living with family while he is a full-time graduate student living on campus. I’m not making a ton of money as a busser (around $800 per month, for reference), but I’m also not working full time and I’m hoping to move up and become a server or food runner in the next couple of months, and that should increase my income. I’m also carrying about $13,000 in Stafford loans, which I will have to start paying in January (I’ve already made some payments). I owe money to my grandmother for my car, but she’s being really generous, like a grandma would, and I can pay that off bit by bit over time. Right now, I have no real expenses except for gas and a beer or meal out about once a week. I feel like I’m in pretty good shape.

My problem is that whenever I start thinking about the financial costs of moving out, I get really scared. Like, stomach-achey, don’t wanna talk about it, having-trouble-breathing scared. I know that I’m safe where I am right now even though I’m not making a lot of money and don’t have a plan (or know how to make one) for making this goal of moving in together happen. I’ve never made a budget before, I’ve never balanced my checkbook, and I don’t really pay attention to what I spend my money on. I just graduated and I know that I need to start doing this stuff (budgeting and making plans) but I don’t know where to start. How do I make a basic budget? What steps should I be taking so that my boyfriend and I can move in together in three months? Is that a reasonable timeline? I feel like I don’t even know what questions to be asking. How do I get over being afraid of money (or the lack thereof)?

Okay, deep breaths. You can get through this! First off, I think a lot of the tummy-aching fears have to do with facing the unknown and taking the leap to move out. You don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s understandably scary. That being said, you still need to fully understand things like budgets and responsible spending, or else you’re going to end up back at your parents with even more debt.

Breaking it down to simplest terms: a budget is a record of what money comes into and out of your possession over a period of time. Still with me?

There are about a thousand websites that can help you make a budget. I like and Be sure to not sugarcoat your budget. Don’t give an estimate for things like groceries. Look at your past bank statements to really see what you’ve been up to. Don’t forget about estimates for utilities, too. I think once you see what your income/spending looks like, things won’t be as scary.

Take the next three months to save every penny you can. Be conscious of every dollar you spend, because you’re going to need it all once you move out. This is the time to figure out what you need versus what you want.

And you will need every dollar/penny, because there are a ton of unknown expenses involved with moving. Do you have all your furniture? A quick trip to Ikea for basics can wipe you out. Even simple projects like a coat of paint on the walls add up. Try to prepare the best you can. Take old furniture off friends’/family members’ hands. Same goes for kitchen stuff.

Being realistic and planning as much as possible will help you get over your fears and handle the move. But if you’re still freaking out come March, or it seems like you don’t have enough money for the move, remember you can push it back. The deadline was one you and your boyfriend made, so you can always push it back.

I have a website, and my dream is to quit my day job so I can blog full time. But, of course, I haven’t done that yet because it might be kind of a pipe dream. Can anyone ever make enough money off their blog to live without a backer? I think I have decent traffic — 100,000 pageviews per month, my Alexa rating is 258,355 in the world and 38,633 in the US. I see websites with worse traffic than me that employ (actually pay!) people, yet I can’t seem to even pay myself.

The problem is I’m good at editorial stuff, but bad at selling stuff. I’m afraid of selling ads. I’m iffy on all the jargon (leadboard CPM what?) and am afraid to start on my own. I recently started working with an ad network again (like MOG or IndieClick) but haven’t gotten my first check yet, and they don’t really seem to fill the inventory. I’m not expecting more than a couple hundred bucks.

I would love to freelance on the side to make up a full income. I would even consider selling my website if it meant I could just be a writer. I’ve been a writer for nine years and have been working at my blog for five — the time feels right. How do I monetize this so I can quit my day job?

To be honest, I don’t know much about this, but I wanted to answer your question because this is the 21st century and I think a lot of people are in your shoes. So I reached out to someone who does know a lot about this stuff. He’s a big-time ad exec who works in new media and with bloggers, and he knows the lay of the land. Here’s what he had to say:

The short answer is yes — you can make enough to live independently off your blog, BUT the likelihood of that is slim, so I’d recommend phasing into that over cutting the cord on traditional employment.

Additionally with the proliferation of every type of blog imaginable, and as marketers get more savvy in digital, it’s going to take more than just strong traffic figures to attract real revenue opportunities. (Think of all the banners ads you simply ignore every day.)

In my opinion, what’s a better pathway to success is merchandising your property to brands as a way to do a more integrated partnership so they can reach their consumers in a way that’s going to resonate more than traditional advertising, because you have a trusted connection with them. JCrew & West Elm do things like this all the time where bloggers curate products, shoot photos, etc. What’s important is it to feel authentic to your audience — web users are smart and can sniff out when they believe their favorite blogger has “sold out.” It’s just as important to cater to your audience (who you’ve spent years developing) as it is brands, so partnerships need to feel logical to your tone and audience. (Ex: if you’re a fashion blogger, doing a partnership with Home Depot probably isn’t going to resonate.)

I don’t have much to add, only it’s a bit worrisome that you’ve been working on this project for five years and still haven’t figured out how to monetize it. That doesn’t bode so well for making a living on it alone, but I don’t want you to give up completely. Keep writing, and, more importantly, keep networking. Opportunities aren’t just handed out, you need to go out there and keep at it. That means not only making connections via the website, but meeting people face to face. However, I would hold off on making any bold decisions like quitting your day job at the moment.

Previously: Credit Cards and the Holiday Nightmare.

Erin Dresch is the producer of business news at NY1, a local news station in New York City. Do you have a question for her?

Image by Fer Gregory, via Shutterstock